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Around 400 protesters gathered at Singapore's Speakers' Corner on Saturday calling for an independent inquiry into whether Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong abused his power in a battle with his siblings over what to do with their late father's house.
The heirs of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's long-serving first prime minister who died in 2015, are bitterly divided over whether to demolish the family home on 38 Oxley Road, or allow the government to decide if it should become a heritage site.
People at Saturday's rally vented frustration over a family that has supplied two of Singapore's three leaders since independence in 1965.
"Singapore belongs to Singaporeans, and not to the FamiLee," read a large banner on the stage for the protest at Speaker's Corner, a designated venue for people to air their views, located in a park near the city's financial district.
By Singapore's standards, the crowd of around 400 mostly middle-aged people was unusually large for an anti-government protest. The rally required the authorities' permission to take place, but there was no visible police presence.
Organizer Gilber Goh speaks to attendees at Hong Lim park during a protest to call for the "independent investigation into the allegations of abuse of power made by siblings Lee Weiling and Lee Hsien Yang against their brother Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong" in Singapore on July 15, 2017. /Reuters Photo
The mainstream opposition, which only holds a handful of seats in parliament, has made little political capital out of a controversy that has riveted Singaporeans since it erupted in mid-June.
But organizers of Saturday's demonstration regarded a parliamentary debate earlier this month as a whitewash, after the prime minister declared that it had found no substantiated evidence to support his siblings' allegations that he had abused his power.
"There's an allegation of abuse of power. And this allegation doesn't come from any Tom, Dick or Harry. It came from the prime minister's siblings, who are privy to information that is not available publicly," Osman Sulaiman, a businessman and political activist said to a smattering of applause and cheers.
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong speaks at a special sitting of parliament in Singapore July 3, 2017. /VCG Photo
The organizers want Singapore's president to commission an independent inquiry, and some of the later speakers switched focus to an upcoming election for the presidency.
The government has reserved the election for candidates from the country's ethnic Malay minority this time as none have held the post for decades. Critics say the move was designed to sideline anti-establishment candidates from the Chinese majority.
For now, Lee and his siblings have called a truce, in a fresh bid to settle the matter privately, though in their last pubic statement the siblings said they would divulge more evidence of abuse of power to an independent inquiry, if one was ever set up.
The younger brother Lee Hsien Yang, who owns the property, and sister Lee Wei Ling, who still lives there, want the house to be demolished in accordance with their father's wishes, rather than become a shrine to a political dynasty.
(CGTN & REUTERS)